27 Nov 23

How a Federal Criminal Record Can Impact Your Life in New York

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Last Updated on: 15th December 2023, 06:15 pm


How a Federal Criminal Record Can Impact Your Life in New York

Having a federal criminal record can really mess up someone’s life, even after they’ve served their time. A lot of people don’t realize all the ways it can impact your future when you’re just trying to get back on your feet. I wanted to write this article to explain some of the main ways it can affect your life in New York specifically. I’ll try to keep it simple and conversational, just sharing what I’ve learned.

Getting a Job

One of the biggest ways a record hurts is when your trying to find work. Most applications ask if you’ve been convicted of a felony. When you check yes, a lot of employers get scared off right away. New York actually has a law called Article 23-A that’s suppose to stop discrimination based on a criminal record, but it still happens all the time.

There’s just a lot of stigma around people with records, like they’ll steal or cause trouble. But everyone deserves a second chance! There are advocacy groups like The HIRE Network in New York trying to work with employers and get rid of blanket bans on hiring people with felonies. Hopefully it’ll get better over time, but right now it can definitely limit your options.

Housing Issues

Finding an apartment or house to rent can also be really hard. Most rental applications ask about criminal history too, and a lot of big management companies just automatically reject you if you have a record. New York City has a Fair Chance Act that’s supposed to stop this, but there are still so many landlords who just don’t want to deal with it.

Public housing often bans people with certain types of convictions too, especially drug offenses. And programs like Section 8 can deny you. So even though housing is a basic need, a record really slams a lot of doors. Your best bet might be finding a private landlord who’s open-minded, but those can be hard to come by.

Other Benefits

There are other government programs and benefits that you can be denied because of a record, which makes getting back on your feet even harder. For example, food stamps/SNAP benefits in New York follow federal laws, which ban drug felons from receiving them. Other types of convictions can still qualify though. Cash assistance like TANF or SSI disability benefits can also be denied or discontinued if you have a drug felony.

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Student loans are a big one too. While you can still qualify for federal loans with a drug conviction if you complete rehab, possession charges make you ineligible. And drug trafficking offenses have unlimited disqualification periods. So if you were hoping education could be your second chance, paying for it gets a lot harder.

Family Rights

Finally, a record can hurt your visitation or custody rights if you have kids. Say your divorced and trying to get split custody – the other parent can use your conviction against you in family court to reduce visits. Even if you still live with your kids, having drug charges or offenses against minors on your record can get CPS called to investigate or remove them from the home.

The specifics depend on the judge or case like always; but in general convictions related to violence, sex offenses, or child endangerment are going to bring the most scrutiny. New York may require you complete programs, treatment or other hoops to get approved for custody if you have certain charges. It’s just another way your past follows you when you likely just want to move forward.


So like I said, having federal charges go on your record can really snowball into impacting big parts of your life even after your sentence. From getting a job to renting somewhere to live or going to school, it slams a lot of doors. New York tries to provide some legal protections against discrimination; but the stigma is still strong. Support groups help, but anyone whose been there knows it’s an uphill battle getting back to normal.

I’m hopeful resources like this help explain the realities people face so we can make progress. If your willing to put in the work to turn your life around, you deserve a fair chance like anyone. A record shouldn’t define you forever. But the impacts are real, and I hope I explained the main ways it can follow you in New York specifically. Let me know if you have any other questions!